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Thursday , 22 April 2021
Image: SVShot/Shutterstock.

KERR: Province should have been the one to talk to municipalities

At last week’s Town of St. Paul Council meeting, CAO Kim Heyman reported the town received an unexpected bill for $24,000 from Alberta Justice. The bill is for the town’s portion of costs related to evidence sent to the RCMP forensic laboratories in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa.

In my opinion, the province of Alberta is being sneaky and trying to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

It’s not just the fact that the only mention of this change, which impacts 47 smaller municipalities across the province to a combined tune of $900,000 annually, was only mentioned once in provincial budgets since 2019.

It’s the fact that the mention is a half-sentence long when this issue has enough impact on those small municipalities that it merits a more detailed breakdown, if not in the provincial budget, then in communications with those municipalities during the two years they should have had to prepare for the cost.

It’s not just the fact that the only people the province says they officially communicated the change to are the commanding officer of RCMP “K” Division, and the chairs of municipal police services in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat.

It’s the fact the province seems to have expected that by telling the RCMP ‘Oh hey, send this bill to these smaller municipalities starting in 2021’ the RCMP then becomes responsible for preparing the municipalities for that cost?

No. That’s not how it works. 

It’s been a few years since my call-center days, but when I worked customer service for Fido, you couldn’t just transfer responsibility for a cell phone bill to someone new because the account holder said to. 

You needed the account holder to say I want to make this person the new account holder, and you needed that person to agree to become responsible for the account. 

You had to go over all the billing details, including the plan(s) associated, when the money was due, where the bill would be sent, when the change would take effect, and more. It was straightforward enough, but a fundamental component of the process was the notification and agreement of everyone involved.

It is fundamentally unfair of the province to tell the RCMP these municipalities are now responsible for the lab bills and not also tell the municipalities to expect the cost.

I’m not even going to pick a dog in the fight over whether or not the municipalities should be paying the bill for this.

My issue right now is with the way it was done.

The province should have told the municipalities this was coming through direct communication to each individual municipality, including a detailed breakdown of their projected costs, when the invoices would start coming and need to be paid by, and who to contact in the case of a dispute over the amount charged.

Not doing that is sneaky, underhanded, and in the way the province says they told the RCMP the change was coming, feels like trying to throw the police under the bus and make it seem like their fault the municipalities are surprised. 

Perhaps it’s an effort to stir up bad blood against the RCMP so there will be more support for that provincial police force idea the province keeps pitching.

This is one’s on you Alberta.

About Meredith Kerr

Meredith Kerr moved to St. Paul for a career in journalism and morning radio in 2014 expecting to stay for six months to a year. Since then, she has put down roots in the form of a husband, a mortgage, two babies, and a poorly behaved dog. She continues to work as a reporter until such time as she finishes her book and becomes fabulously wealthy from the royalties. Meredith also serves as a member at large on the St. Paul Library Board and volunteers as a Beaver leader for the 1st St. Paul Scout Group.